Some years ago, I heard a well-known Christian leader talking about his eldest son, who had a heart condition. The young man was suddenly taken seriously ill at college and was rushed to the hospital. As the parents sped toward the emergency room, the father said to his wife, “Pray hard; maybe God will be good and our boy will live.” His wife replied, “Isn’t God good if he dies?”
That world-renowned Christian leader spoke quietly about the affirmation of faith in God’s character and about ways that he was made anew at that moment of personal crisis. “God is good,” he said to his wife, “whether our boy lives or dies.” The boy died, but his parents were able to say with Job, “The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Most of us have trouble believing “the messenger” when he arrives with bad news. In the story of Job’s misfortunes, messenger after messenger arrived, each with a more devastating report than the last. We don’t see Job going into a state of denial; he believes what he has been told. I saw this response modeled years ago by a friend of mine.
When we first came to pastor the church in Milwaukee, my new neighbor and her husband had been married well over forty years. Both of these dear people had come to faith in Christ soon after we had come to know them and were as fresh and excited about their newfound Savior as little children. Then the husband died. I stood with the widow at the funeral home at the side of the casket as relatives and friends filed past.
The sister of the old man was inconsolable. She mourned without hope, standing alongside the widow and murmuring to each guest, “There he is… There he is” as they came past. I shot a look at my new friend to see how she was doing and noticed that she was becoming somewhat agitated. Looking briefly at her husband’s corpse, she said to his sister, “If I believed, ‘There he is,’ I would be of all people most miserable. Do you know what makes this possible instead of impossible for me?”
“No,” replied the startled sister.
“There he isn’t!” my friend replied with great gusto. “There he isn’t – he’s with Jesus,” she repeated. “Absent from the body – present with the Lord,” she concluded. My friend had certain hope of the Resurrection. She knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she would see her beloved husband again. In accepting death as an inevitable part of life, she began to cope much better than the old man’s sister, who couldn’t accept the fact that her brother had died. And my friend was just a new believer! She had been able to believe the messenger and accept the sudden death of her husband and, therefore, had been able to be a help to others.
When we accept that the “unacceptable” has come to us with the full knowledge and permission of a God of integrity, we can stop trying to push the trouble away. The sooner we can accept what we cannot change, the sooner we are ready to experience the peace and healing that we need.
Just Between Us Magazine